Film FestivalShort Film Reviews 03

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Back to the SHADOWS FILM FEST page last update 2.Nov.03

back to the top SHORT FILMS 2003
Selected short films seen outside festivals
heinle and mcclain ANOTHER NIGHT
Anthony Volastro; scr Manuel Montes, Anthony Volastro; with Amelia Heinle, Bernard McClain, June Squibb, Beth Ostrosky, DA Keator 03/US 16m 3 out of 5 stars
This involving short film feels like the final act of a romantic-drama feature, as it begins with a woman (Heinle) in a confessional telling the priest (McClain) that she's moving away with her husband and son. These two have obviously been having an affair; and now they must find a way to talk privately about what will happen next. The woman's ultimate decision hangs over the film like a sword waiting to drop--we have an inkling what she will do, but as we begin to feel the barely repressed passion between these two, we can never second-guess her. While there are a few contrived moments in the storyline, it's subtly directed by Volastro and extremely well-played by the cast (Squibb, who played Jack Nicholson's wife in About Schmidt, is a nosey hotel cleaner). We really get into their heads. And it's significant that the religious and racial issues clearly apparent on screen have nothing at all to do with the decision the woman has to make. Very nice! 31.Jul.03 [NB: Won three awards at New York's First Run Film Festival: best actress, score and sound.]
the niger THE NIGER RIVER TREK: An Uncommon Adventure, A Photographic Impression
Roberta Lautenschlager, Patricia Scallet; with John Lautenschlager, Tamba Musa, Dan Venberg, Steve Olson, Krister Evenhouse 03/US 8m 3 out of 5 stars
This brief documentary was made from photos taken during a seven-month walking trip the entire length of the Niger River in West Africa--2,600 miles! The feat is pretty astonishing itself (the five travellers only took a change of clothes and their cameras), but the film centres on the images they collected along the way. And they're stunning, capturing landscapes, bustling scenes of life on the river, and most notably the faces of the people they met along the way. Accompanied by Will Calhoun's evocative music, the film would require only mild tweaking to be a TV-quality doc: namely smoother transitions, clearer graphics and a more professional-style narration. (It's voiced by John Lautenschlager, who led the journey; he and his wife, who codirected and produced this film, worked in Sierra Leone and Nigeria for 20 years as medical missionaries.) Well worth looking out for at festivals. And the story of the trek itself would no doubt make a terrific feature! 16.Sep.03
back to the top LFF SHORTS
Selected short films seen at the 47th London Film Festival, Oct-Nov 2003
spin festival SPIN
Cath Le Couter 02/UK 9m 3 out of 5 stars
Energetic and colourful, with gorgeous photography and clever editing, this film tracks around a lively party at which a group of university age students are playing a rowdygame of spin the bottle. One shy guy spins ... and is surprised to end up locked in the bathroom for 2 minutes with another boy. Tensions and innuendo are intriguingly highlighted as questions of sexuality gurgle under the surface. Terrific cast too! But it's one of those shorts that ends just as it gets interesting. 8.Oct.03 lff
high-speed chase WARD 13
Peter Cornwell 03/Australia 15m 4 out of 5 stars
This brilliant animated short draws heavily on the Wallace & Gromit style with intensely inventive and detailed claymation and a very black sense of humour. It's a horror film about a guy who's hit by a car and wakes up in a hospital where the doctors and nurses are up to something horrible. Tense, creepy and outrageously exciting, the Australian filmmakers use a massive horror score and lots of awful medical-instrument imagery, not to mention mad killer doctors and mutant patients (and pets) all chasing our hero through the halls. And if that's not enough, there's a full-on swordfight (with canes), a high-speed chase sequence (on wheelchairs), acid-filled syringes, dirty scalpels, exploding heads and super rhino powers! These animators are clearly deranged. And I mean that in a good way!
Deschanel, Kinney and Rudd HOUSEHUNTING
Amy Lippman; with Zooey Deschanel, Paul Rudd, Terry Kinney, Felicity Huffman 03/US 19m 3 out of 5 stars
This gorgeously well-produced short follows a couple (Deschanel and Rudd) on a day looking for a house to buy with a particularly strange agent (Kinney), who really starts acting odd in the last house. The couple is tense and fed up, picky and obsessive, but the agent has serious issues and starts steaking things before the owner (Huffman) arrives home in a blind rage. It's expertly played, and the script (based on a Michael Chabon story) draws us nicely into the characters. Small tremors and unexpected sex complete the puzzle. Good fun.
Roseanne Liang; with Bruce Hopkins, Jochen FitzHerbert, Ron Baker, Fiona manle, Daniel Cowley 03/NZ 12m 3 out of 5 stars
This silly short from New Zealand is set on a film set, where a tough-guy actor (Hopkins) is tired of being trapped in thug roles and dreams of being in a musical version of Titanic with his makeup girl (Manle). "I can sing, dance, love," he proclaims to deaf ears. No one will let him show his funny or sensitive side. When it shifts into a full-on musical, this short gets very corny indeed, with seriously dodgy acting too. But it's sweet and nicely made. And a great idea for a short.
Kara Miller; with Dudley Sutton 03/UK 6m 2 out of 5 stars
Shot on video in extreme closeup, Miller at least makes this blackly comic short look interesting, even if the script feels undernourished. Sutton stars as a cantankerous old man who reluctantly lets a financial advisor into his home, then immediately regrets it when she starts telling him about a "unique business opportunity." So he starts imagining ways to shut her up. But is this a fantasy in his mind, or a plan of action? While nicely creepy and quite grisly, it's all a bit vague and maddening.
ashfield and warren PERFECT
Rankin; scr Simon Ashdown; with Kate Ashfield, Marc Warren 03/UK 13m 2 out of 5 stars
Dark and tense, this London-based short centres on the 20-something media world, where a trendy couple (Ashfield and Warren) has seriously nasty relational issues that call for professional help--either a shrink or the police! The stylish film deals with domestic violence straight on, without pulling any punches, so to speak. It's violent and creepy, but almost in a blacky comical sort of way. Why the filmmakers have an obsession with ants is anyone's guess. As is the real point to this short, besides raw awareness.
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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall